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PSYC 4030 University of West Georgia Psychology during the Wars Discussion

In Section 3, we’ve had a look at what might be called psychology’s “boom” years. In these years — between the wars and and during and after the Second World War — psychology as a discipline held a future as a force in society for many reasons (and not all of them aligned or consistent). Some saw psychological science as a form of social engineering in creating a more vibrant economic life and healthy population. Others saw psychological theory and practice as a way of liberation from constricting norms, and in confirmation of human potential. And many, from marginalized and oppressed groups, saw psychological science as yet another tool to work against them, and sought to change psychology for a more just society. And these aims, inflected in different ways, may inform someone’s outlook (of course, people did not neatly fall into these three specific camps). So, rather than propose a specific question, I’m wondering what stood out to you as especially noteworthy, interesting, or significant in this period in the history of psychology (and why). There’s so much here, but here a few of the issues/themes that keep me thinking (and not exhaustive my any means):

The philosophical and social consequences of positivism, allied to behaviorism;

The unholy alliance of psychology and racism;

The ambiguous position of personality testing (with respect to psychoanalysis on the one hand, and industrial psychology on the other);

The tension between atomistic approaches to psychology (like behaviorism or associationism) and holism (like Gestalt psychology);

The continued application to psychological technology to industrial problems (like aptitude test or workplace analyses);

The post-war emptiness of self that Phil Cushman describes and the ways psychology, psychotherapy, and advertising addressed (or contributed to) this suffering;

The Skinnerian revolution in behaviorism and its consequences;

The Third Force (humanistic psychology) pushback on conformism, natural science psychology, and its holistic allegiance to human experience, transcendence, and self-actualization; and,

The efforts of African-American psychologists to use psychological science as a means for social justice.

These are just a few of the topics that stand out to me, but I’d love to hear about what interests you in this section.


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